Saturday, 14 December 2013

Our wonderful students

Please excuse a bit of bragging in this post, but a theme is emerging during this trip that must be acknowledged. On a number of occasions through the tour, I have been sought out by people who have contact with our group to let me know how impressed they are with the calibre of our students.

At the Sportsmen's Lodge Hotel in LA, both the manager and the supervisor of catering made a point of letting me know how well-behaved our students had been. From the manager's point of view, the measure was the number of complaints that she hadn't received from the other guests. 'Not one complaint!' The catering staff wanted to commend our students on their manners and courtesy.

Jayne, our wonderful tour guide from LAX to San Francisco, made similar comments about the general conduct and manners of the students. Her observations were based on two decades of guiding students around the area; she was effusive in her affirmations of our young people.

The cafe staff who served us on our three mornings in San Francisco made the same comments, as did our San Francisco guides Frances and Joyce.

Some of this could be taken with a grain of salt (or a shovelful of it, as seems to be the case on a lot of food over here!), seen as a way of ensuring that our school feels warmly towards these service providers as a way of increasing the likelihood of repeat business. However, yesterday as we were travelling from San Francisco to Las Vegas we stopped in the late afternoon at a family run truckstop/general store/farm in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada ranges. We spent 20 minutes there for a rest break and afternoon tea; the students are excitedly trying beef jerky, roasted corn and various other culinary novelties. As I was shepherding the students back onto the buses, the manager/owner came over to tell me how struck she was by the politeness and positivity of our students, noting that it stood out by comparison to other similar-aged groups that have come through over the years. Having shared our story with her, she knew that there was no likelihood of repeat business from us, but she took the time to compliment our students anyway.

From my point of view, recognising my own bias in this matter, I am immensely proud of our young people. They are extraordinary ambassadors for their families, their school and their country.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Glorious days in San Francisco

We embark on a 900km drive to Las Vegas in a couple of minutes, having had a wonderful time in San Francisco.

Our visit to Alcatraz yesterday  was fascinating. For all of Sydney's fascination with water views, the spectacular views from Alcatraz probably wouldn't have been worth it for those incarcerated there! The bleakness of life on the Rock would only have been accentuated by the torment of being able to see, hear and smell the good life in SF across the water. 

Our performance in Union Square in the middle of the day was a memory for a lifetime. It was a great outdoor venue, surrounded by iconic shopping (think Tiffany and Co, Macy's, Saks on 5th Avenue, Neimann-Marcus etc), next to an outdoor ice-skating rink and in the shadow of a massive Christmas tree. The performances rose to the occasion and the students received a huge amount of praise from discerning observers, including professional musicians and music teachers.

We made it to the viewing locations for the Golden Gate Bridge just in time for sunset.

Last night the NBA game between the Golden State Warriors and the Dallas Mavericks was a nail-biter, with our adopted GSW team coming from behind to win with a buzzer-beater! Great times.

Now for the long drive throughout the desert

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Inaburra Music Tour USA 2013 - Part 1

And the blog returns..

At present I am on a music tour with 62 Inaburra students, 11 staff and 22 supporters. We are in the US for about two weeks, combining musical performances, workshops, sightseeing and .... whatever comes.

A blow by blow description of our activities can be found on Twitter @Inaburra or at www.inaburrabandtour.wordpress.com.

A couple of observations so far, which may or may not emerge from any experiences that may or may not have happened in the last couple of days ...

  • When supervising young people, a culture of trust and mutual respect is infinitely preferable to hyper-vigilant scrutiny
  • It is not difficult to recognise foreigners (including Aussies), even when they aren't travelling in a group of nearly 100 and wearing matching shirts.
  • Not every form of food is improved with a squirt of cheese sauce.
  • The Australian public health system has a lot going for it
  • There are lots of very friendly people everywhere - and an Australian accent is a great ice-breaker.
Off we go ...